It must be nice to be an outfielder in the Yankees farm system in 2015.
An outfielder coming up two decades ago wouldn’t have taken playing time away from Paul O’Neill or Bernie Williams. And a prospect a decade ago wouldn’t have cracked a Matsui-Sheffield-Williams outfield.
Now the Yankees have an aging Carlos Beltran and Chris Young who may not be in pinstripes in several years. Not that Jeff Hendrix is thinking that far ahead.
“I’m just going to continue to play as hard as I can and continue to improve,” said Hendrix, the center fielder for the Staten Island Yankees. “We’ll see what the future has in store. I’ve got a long way to go.”
The Oregon State product was the fourth round selection of the Yankees in the 2015 draft, after they had selected three pitchers and a shortstop. He had been picked by Kansas City in the 39th round of the 2014 draft, but returned to college.
The Yankees took note of Hendrix’s .339 average as the Beavers made the NCAA Tournament, finishing 39-18-1. He doubled 15 times in 58 games, and had six homers and 34 RBI.
Hendrix has adjusted from playing in Oregon to playing in New York City.
“It’s definitely different, but the game never changes,” Hendrix said. “It’s always 90 feet to the bases, and the pitcher is still going to throw the ball over the plate and you gotta hit it. It’s still the same game and I’m loving it so far out here.”
During the week, Hendrix made diving catches in consecutive games against the rival Cyclones, both on balls hit by Michael Bernal.
On Wednesday night with the game tied at two in the seventh, Hendrix made a diving catch on a ball hit to shallow center. The catch saved a hit and a run with Vinny Siena on second base. Staten Island would in 10 innings.
Hendrix also had to deal with a swirling wind at the stadium. “I got kind of a slow read on it, I thought he hit it harder. I think it was off the end of the bat a little bit. I started running in on it. I wasn’t sure I was going to get to it because the wind was knocking it down. Luckily, I was barely able to reach it. It always feels good, especially with a runner in scoring position and two outs, to know what you potentially saved a run.”
Flash forward to the next night. Staten Island leads 1-0 in the sixth. A win for the Yankees ties them with Brooklyn in the standings. The Cyclones have a man on first with one out for Bernal, who crushed one into the gap in left-center, but Hendrix chased it down and made a diving catch.
“Luckily, I got a good jump on it. I was just barely able to get there on a dive.”
The Baby Bombers would hold on for the 1-0 win on Hendrix’s 22nd birthday. Somewhat surprisingly, Hendrix felt the second catch was easier. “I’m more comfortable going over my shoulder like that as opposed to coming straight forward.”
There have been some struggles at the plate, as Hendrix gets used to professional pitching. Hendrix is batting .233 with two extra base hits.
“The guys are throwing three pitches, controlling three pitches a lot of the time and throwing them where they want to. As a hitter, you definitely have to protect more and get good pitches to swing at, and when you get the pitches you got to strike them.”
Hendrix is very in-the-moment and is not all about wanting to be promoted from the New York Penn-League as opposed to wanting to win with Staten Island. “Whatever team you’re with, I think you just take it day-by-day and kind of let the future take care of itself. If you’re playing hard, a lot of times you’ll be rewarded. We just want to work hard and continue to have fun together and just try to improve every day.”